Despite the fact that fibromyalgia is estimated to affect around 12 million Americans, the underlying processes (biological, neurological, biochemical, and so on) responsible for fibromyalgia remain little understood. Unfortunately, this lack of understanding means that fibromyalgia remains difficult to diagnose and extremely difficult to treat effectively. Recently however, scientists have had success treating fibromyalgia pain with proper supplementation of dietary aids. In particular, one ingredient has shown significantly ability to reduce fibro pain, and it’s called Alpha Lipoic Acid.
Standard medical treatments for fibromyalgia generally include one or both of the following:
• Pain medication: usually over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (or NSAIDs) such as Tylenol, Aspirin, and Advil. Sometimes prescription medications intended to treat nerve pain, such as Ultram, are prescribed instead or in addition.
• Exercise and physical therapy techniques: there are multiple benefits of exercise, including weight loss (obesity is often associated with fibromyalgia) and sleep regulation (if you’re tired from working out, you’re more likely to sleep better!). Certain physical therapy techniques and stretches can help reduce tender point pain, at least in the short term.
However, these common techniques mostly treat the symptoms of fibromyalgia rather than the underlying cause. Recent studies, though, have shown that multiple vitamin deficiencies are correlated with fibromyalgia. Though it isn’t clear yet whether these vitamin deficiencies are responsible for fibro, there’s increasing evidence that treating these deficiencies can improve fibro symptoms dramatically.
There are multiple supplements increasingly used to regulate fibro patients’ vitamin levels. In this article, I’ll discuss one of them: the supplement that seems to have the most noticeable impact on fibro pain—that is, alpha lipoic acid (or ALA).
Note: “ALA” is also used to refer to an essential fatty acid called alpha linolenic acid—this is not the same chemical and hasn’t been shown to have any effect on fibro symptoms! We are using “ALA” to refer to alpha lipoic acid throughout.
Alpha lipoic acid is a vitamin-like chemical probably best described as an antioxidant. As you’ve probably heard, antioxidants are known for reducing or eliminating “free radicals”: a chemistry term used to refer to atoms or molecules (collections of atoms bound together) that are “free” in the sense that, due to their chemical structure, they very easily bond to other atoms and molecules. This means that free radicals easily damage cells throughout your body by starting a chain reaction: free radicals in your body bond to the molecules that make up your cells, turning those molecules into free radicals as well; these new free radicals bond to new molecules and make more new free radicals… and this goes on and on until the cycle is broken.
Antioxidants, however, prevent these harmful reactions from taking place. It has been suggested by studies that fibromyalgia actually is the result of cell damage caused by free radicals, meaning that antioxidants are extra important for fibro patients.
ALA isn’t just any antioxidant, though: it’s considered to be an extra-special antioxidant for several reasons. First, while most antioxidants are either fat or water soluble (making them less effective, or harder for your body to break down, under certain conditions), ALA is effective in both water and fatty tissue. Second, it increases the amount of another antioxidant which is crucial for fibromyalgia patients called glutathione. Third, unlike many other antioxidants, it can cross the blood-brain barrier: this just means that it’s able to reach and protect your brain from free radicals as just described. It’s likely that ALA is special in other ways as well—current studies continue to show how effective it is across different cells and different medical conditions
Ok, now why am I going on about chemistry and free radicals and so on? This information is helpful in understanding exactly how it is that ALA can improve your fibro pain.
Again, while the mechanism of action is not fully understood, the link between fibromyalgia and these vitamin deficiencies have been studied repeatedly; studies show that, when these deficiencies are taken care of, fibro pain is greatly reduced.
Ordinarily, ALA is produced by the body. However, it is usually deficient in fibromyalgia patients. ALA does occur naturally in many foods—particularly foods such as spinach, broccoli, peas, Brussels sprouts, rice bran, brewer’s yeast, and organ meats. However, the amount found in food is much too small to be of any therapeutic value. In order to significantly affect your fibro pain, ALA should be taken in capsule form (these capsules are available at most health food stores and some pharmacies). Every Day Optimal’s new Total Relief Fibromyalgia CBD contains 17.5mg’s of Alpha Lipoic Acid in each capsule, as well as 16 other vitamins known to help fibromyalgia pain. As with any new self-treatment, be sure to talk to ask your doctor whether ALA is right for you!
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